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The ManyTracks Orchard

Dudley Apple

possible New Brunswick seedling

Castle Hill, Maine, 1877
AKA Dudley Winter and North Star


In 1918 a second variety trial orchard was planted at the Chatham Experiment Station in the Upper Peninsula. Most of the information from this orchard has, unfortunately, been lost. But a short note in a bulletin includes North Star in a listing of apples planted in that early orchard.


planted 2002 on Antonovka rootstock


Dudley apple tree in fruit

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Dudley Winter seedlingOur tree came from Fedco Trees in Maine, grafted on standard Antonovka rootstock, planted in 2002. I like the form it takes-wide-beautiful and easy to pick. I'm keeping it pruned to about 12 ft tall; which is easier to do on a wide growing tree. Our first harvest was in 2009 - 20 nice apples! And good tasting apples they were - large, crisp, juicy, nice tart-sweet balance. Good fresh, good dried and good as sauce. And it ripens over many weeks so spreads out the harvest nicely.

The next year, 2010, was a very good crop of nice large apples. Since then we've had moderate crops (along with no or sparse crops, too, thanks to late spring freezes) from early to late in September, and we've eaten, preserved and enjoyed a lot of DudleDudley tree wintery's. It's a great standard now in the orchard.  

It probably won't win any awards for its name (unless your or a friend's name happens to be Dudley) and you aren't likely to find it in many modern orchards today, but at the turn of the century (1900) it was the most planted apple in the north. There is some question as to its parentage but was a planted seed in John Wesley Dudley's orchard about 1877 in Castle Hill, Maine, of either New Brunswick or Duchess parentage, maybe crossed with Hyslop crab. We'll never know for sure but what matters is it turned out to  be a good hardy variety to be planted extensively in Maine and other northern areas including the U.P.. I suspect there were, and are, old Dudleys growing in some of the old orchards around here, and likely progeny in the many wild seedling trees. So I am happy to have one growing in my orchard. It is known to be a hardy and long lived tree.

Dudley apple large in hand 20182023 - I sure appreciate this tree, even when we have bumper crops from many other trees. It's so enthusiastic in both growth and fruit. I continue to prune a lot, trying to keep open space. Full of blossoms, full of fruit. Less thinning of fruit this year to keep apples a more moderate size, but enough to assure fruit doesn't touch. I'm using the hand-cranked apple-peeler more now for drying pieces and it won't handle very large apples (which Dudley loves to grow). It seemed to work, or it was just the year, but there were more medium and medium-large than large-large. Apples were less red this year, but good and healthy. Started dropping good ripe fruit 9/4 and continued thru the month. 10/1 picked last 5 off tree but that's its end as it doesn't store long. Very nice crop. Made a lot of dried slices and, with Beacon, a lot of delicious cider.

2022 - Continue bringing top down one limb at a time. Quite a bit of general pruning done to clear spaces, a lot of uprights, some lows. It is a vigorous tree. The old splits on trunk are healing well. Fairly full bloom this year. Had Blossom/Tip Blight scattered throughout orchard but none on Dudley. It was a scab year though with most fruit having at least a few spots, some more. But the worst dropped early and there was plenty of fruit. I thinned a lot to keep distance between apples. Set was quite zonal (as seemed case in most of the trees). it seems no matter how much I prune the tree still needs thinning when I get myself in there to work on it or harvest!

Harvested fruit as it dropped, starting early Sept. A lot dried and fresh sauce, plus later for fresh cider mixed with Beacons. End of Sept. I picked the rest, about a bushel. It was a good year and once again a major player in the apple harvest.

2021 - When pruning I noticed what looks like major sunscald (?) on the south side mid high up on the trunk. Otherwise the tree looks good with plenty of growth. I took off a lot of uprights and some of the top to keep it wide (it's about 20 ft wide now) and low. This should have been its big year for fruit, and it did blossom prolifically. But the four night 22-28 freeze came two days later to take out most apple fruit for the year. So the tree got another year off. But not completely, it did manage putting out a light crop with scattered maturity. Not many but I sure appreciated them. The growing season was again unusually hot.

2020 - An Off Year -- for fruit but a good, healthy year for the tree. Mid April pruned quite a bit, many low hanging branches and opening space between layers. Looks good. Record heat for the summer. Sept. 17 picked 3 apples from tree, a couple dropped earlier. One was VERY large - 11 oz, plus 2 medium size.

2019 - Dudley Shines Again -- This tree a major player in my orchard. I love the form - it looks venerable already, though it is a somewhat young tree at 17 yrs of age. I did a bit of major pruning in April, and more mid-summer, giving the branches more space to breath, and keeping it to the height of my reach on the ladder. It blossomed profusely (it was a great apple blossom year for most of the trees) and the fruit came likewise. I did a fair amount of thinning though I could have done more. Time limited me, not desire. I've found thinning worthwhile, not only for size (Dudley is naturally a fairly large apple) but for clean fruit. Crowded apples tend toward more insect damage and skin issues. But really, no complaints about the harvest. As often happens, I thought it would be just a moderate harvest, but it proved me wrong.

Dudley apples loaded limbsThe end of August the drops started including some good apples (the first drops are almost always fruit damaged in some way, usually insect, maybe some scab, usually smalls). Thankfully limber limbs were bent to the ground with no damage, heavy with fruit (need to do some low pruning next year!). Another week and we were eating and saucing good Dudleys. By the third week in September I was picking up many baskets of very good large and medium sized fruit daily. I started drying the fruit, canning sauce and making cider. The end of September I picked the rest of the apples - 4 half-bushels - 78#! We made more cider and I stored the best in the root cellar for fall applesauce. A very good year and a very good harvest. What a great tree.

2018 - An off year but still a decent small harvest, mostly from the south side of the tree. It was a rough winter in addition to last year being a large harvest so I wasn't surprised at the light crop. I pruned quite a bit mid July to open up the interior more, pulling down some upper branches as well, and am happy with the results. The tree is healthy, vigorous, and wide. Quite a contrast in shape to its companion Black Oxford next door. Together they have been our main apple producers while the stalwart Beacons were being rejuvenated, and a much appreciated pair they have been.

Dudley winter fruit

2017 - Great Harvest! The first really big harvest - 86#, not including all that were eaten fresh from the tree. Half were small early drops (starting August 21), rough or damaged apples which went for cider. The other half were good apples to be stored for fresh eating and fresh made sauce, pretty much all off the tree by Sept. 22. I thinned quite a bit but could probably have thinned more.

The fruit is on the tart side, firm and juicy enough for good fresh eating, nicely large for drying; it makes good sauce (with some sweetening) and great cider. Red stripes and splashes on yellow-green background makes a nice apple looking apple.

It's said Dudley is a decent keeper apple well into winter but since it ripens in September when our root cellar is still warm I dry the majority of the crop that we don't eat. It hangs well on the tree for several weeks which is great for apple-a-day fresh eating, as long as the birds don't decide to help themselves. This year we ate the last stored apples November 8. They were getting rather soft with a slight mealy texture but were still decent to eat and plenty good enough for sauce. It certainly understandable that an apple variety might change down through the many years so I wonder if the original Dudley was a later, and better storage, apple. One of the names it was known by was Dudley Winter (it was also sold for a short time as North Star).

2006 - 2016


2006 - Some blossoms. Largest and more thriving of 3 trees planted 2002.

- Full blossoms! Spreading habit. Remember to prune upright. Apples! Looking good. 9/29 big wind, many dropped fruit. Picked rest. 20 nice apples!

2011 - full blossoms - set nice crop! Most have some scab but doing OK. Heavy with good size fruit, most quite large. A few early damaged ones dropped 1st Sept, others looking great. Mid Sept dropping most, decent one, large! Continue dropping few at a time until picked last dozen off tree 9/25. Good, tart fruit.

2012 - 5/30 freeze killed all blossoms/buds.

2013 - Many blossoms, some fruit. Reg size, dropping late Aug. Lots of blemished but good to have. Light crop. As before dropping better decent large apples 9/5. Light harvest but appreciated. Rather sour but nice, large. Last 2 apples on tree 9/27. Very spreading tree.

2014 - Slight bloom. Reasonable set of good size apples. Start dropping main crop 1st Sept. Much maggot tracks & some rot but dried a lot. later apples better. Most all down by 9/20, mostly large ones.

2015 - Top at this height. Looking good but needs to be opened up more. Good blossoms, looking great. Then tips & blossoms browning. Panic - fireblight??! Sprayed with 1/2-1/2 white vinegar & water (BlOx and other small apples as well). BIG mistake. Burned leaves. Sprayed with water as much as I could. Decided it could likely have been frost/winter damage (per some photos online). Don’t know but it, and the others, outgrew it all OK. Poor crop but did use ~ a dozen.

2016 - Looking great! Beautiful wide tree. Thinned for better air circulation, pruned out some larger branches. Moderate blossoms, light fruit set in sections, mostly SW, not over all of tree. Thinned fruit 7/3 for space between each apple. 8/25 dropping early fruit; added to wild tree apples for sauce. A bit sour but OK. 8/28 dropped (& shook off) 13# of pretty nice mostly large fruit. Dried a lot, ate fresh and as sauce. Tart but tasty; good with sugar. Left about 3 dozen on tree for later fresh eating. Holding well. Then a flock of bluejays moved in to ravage the Dudleys and Oxford’s. By the time I noticed they’d eaten a lot. Harvested rest (half eaten ones included) 9/25. If not for jays could have left on tree longer.

(fedco) Medium-sized [ours are rather large] slightly flattened fruit is buttery yellow, overspread with red stripes and splashes. Firm but tender, juicy aromatic subacid flesh [on the tart side but good flavor] for fresh eating and cooking. Makes an excellent pie. In northern areas—where it reaches its prime—it also keeps into winter. Small vigorous spreading drooping tree. Our Dudley scionwood comes from a small abandoned orchard just north of Castle Hill. Somewhat scab susceptible. Extremely hardy. Natural semi-dwarf. Blooms early-midseason. Z3-4.

Copyright Susan Robishaw

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